Fragments of Glissant

Close distance

This collection of fragments forms part of an ongoing PhD project on the relation between Edouard Glissant’s conceptions of poetics and the political. It was written in response to his theoretical essays (1955- 2009), which can be read as a commentary that runs parallel to his novels and poetry.

The anecdotes, images and speculations that follow correspond to my own points of entry into Glissant’s work. Without insinuating a hierarchy or causal relationship between the biographical anecdotes and his key ideas and concepts, they imply some of the grounds on which my initial intuition rests that Glissant’s ‘politics of relation’ has something radically new to offer in the realm of postcolonial political theory.

1

In 1957, Édouard Glissant appears in the French literature show Lecture pour tous. He is 29 years old and has just published his first books: the essay Soleil de la conscience and the poem Les Indes.

Glissant is wearing a thick jacket and a jersey over a white shirt and tie. He is sitting reclined, slightly slouched on his chair. The interviewer wants to know about his first experiences of snow in France. Glissant smiles as he responds, closing his eyes at times, glancing at the ceiling.

He starts by saying that his interest in French snow is less spectacular than the enthusiasm French tourists express about the Flamboyant, the flametree of his native island Martinique. He then admits that he felt a sense of reassurance when the reality matched his imagination. “I thought, finally here it is. I will get to experience everything they told me during my childhood,” he says with a mischievous smile the French viewers probably do not fully comprehend.

For Glissant this is not the occasion to elaborate on how the European snow also reminded him of the icy European winter that once killed the Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture, alone in a prison cell in Fort de Joux, after he had organised a successful slave rebellion against Napoleon’s France in Haiti. In keeping with the honourable tradition of Caribbean intellectuals, notably C. L. R. James and Aimé Césaire, Glissant would publish his version of Toussaint L’Ouverture’s death in the form of a theatre play three years later, in 1961.

This is also not the occasion for Glissant to speak about the irony of being taught about snow during his school days on the tropical island of Martinique, or about the strange habit of Martinicans to refer to the months around December as winter—in a place that only has a single season. This TV show is not the right moment for a discussion like this. He will formulate his critique against assimilation and the peculiarities of French colonial violence elsewhere.

When the interviewer goes on to ask Glissant what his work is essentially about the young poet’s face becomes serious. He is now speaking about a new civilisation. A new civilisation that is emerging in the Caribbean and that the people in front of the television screen will most likely not have heard about, a civilisation that has remained obscure to the chroniclers of world-history.

Glissant is convinced that after a long history of pain and bloodshed, after violent conflicts between slave masters and slaves, a harmony is arising from this particular part of the world, one with unpredictable outcomes. He will later give different names to this phenomenon. Creolisation is one of them.

For now, Glissant insists, the crucial thing is that this new civilisation be given space to express itself, that it develop its own language, its own poetics. In the way he speaks there is no doubt that the young poet is already sure of his role within the global drama he is to describe in the course of his life. Who and where is Glissant in all of this?

He summarises his position in a single sentence. Calmly and with certainty he says, “Christopher Columbus left for what was called the New World, and I’m the one who returned from it.”

2

In her essay “Beyond the Word of Man” (1989), Sylvia Wynter claims that the key to Glissant’s work is the experience of the blockage. By saying that, she is specifically speaking about the historic blockade of Martinique that Glissant experienced as a boy at the beginning of the Second World War.

After the Germans invaded France, the Bank of France packed all of its gold onto a fleet of ships that crossed the Atlantic to escape from the Nazis. When the Germans started chasing the treasure, the Americans, who were collaborating with the Vichy regime at the time, set up a blockade around the island. Meanwhile the 6000 sailors from Vichy France occupied the island and harassed the local population, which was suffering severe food shortages. After the blockade was finally lifted, a collective sense of disenfranchisement remained on the island.

And indeed, although Glissant’s memories of the time are filled with stories of how he used to walk many miles across the island on the desperate search for books, if one looks closely enough, metaphorical and real blockades, blockages, borders and strategies to overcome them fill his oeuvre.

In the monumental study of his island, Le discours antillais (1981), it is the blockage to his becoming Caribbean, by way of Martinique’s disavowal of its relation to the neighbouring islands. Assimilated to France, as an “example of a successful colonisation”, in Glissant’s words, Martinique enjoys exceptional economic wealth and stability in the region and considers itself superior to “lesser developed” or “chaotic”—yet thoroughly independent—islands like Haiti.

Linked to the above is the issue of the blocked-out memory of the origins of the island’s population, of the rupture that took place when the first African slaves arrived on the island. Instead of acknowledging the legacy of African cultures in Martinique, Martinicans use the word “African” as a derogatory term. The fact that Martinicans are employed to work as administrators for the French colony further fuels this sense of historic self-alienation.

Related to this is the issue of blocked productivity. After the collapse of the plantation system, Martinique lives on French hand-outs. Consumerism colonises the minds of the Martinicans, cultural creativity comes to a halt and folklore becomes the dominant form of cultural self-expression.

In the twenty-first century, thoroughly disillusioned about Martinique’s future, Glissant’s thinking turns to new borders. In 2007, Glissant and his friend and writer colleague Patrick Chamoiseau publish the political pamphlet Quand les murs tombent. The text is a response to the establishment of the ridiculously sounding French ministry: Ministère de l’Immigration, de l’Intégration, de l’Identité nationale et du Développement solidaire. The argument made by these two friends is simple: this ministry is the opposite of beauty.

Identity, Glissant and Chamoiseau insist, cannot be institutionalised. It is about taking a risk in relation to the other and to the world. “There is a fresh wind blowing in the word immigration,” they continue. “The quality of a nation depends on its ability to accept strangers into its midst.” The “politics of relation” that the writers advocate claims that this type of relation-state still needs to be built.

As Glissant is well aware, we are heading straight into the realm of utopia. Of course, even between relation-states, borders will still exist, but only to differentiate and to relate, so that we can appreciate the “difference in the scent of the air as we pass from one country to another”.

Glissant and Chamoiseau conclude: “The relation to the other (to every other, in its animalistic, plant-like, cultural and therefore human presence) shows us the highest, most precious and most enriching part of ourselves. The walls have to fall.”

The French “Identity Ministry” closes in November 2010.

To believe that the “weapon of poetry” played any part in its abolishment would be entirely utopian.

3

For Glissant, the most beautiful translations manage to preserve the structures and intentions of the original work even if they cannot convey the original rhythm of the language. It then functions “like a transversal, a diagonal, that reveals, from one end to the other, poetic intentions that are diverse but convergent today. A poetics can ‘pass’ from one language to another, from now on, for the sumptuous yet complicated reason that today we juggle all the poetics of all the languages of the world. We think and write in the presence of all the languages of the world.”

Glissant’s Le discours antillais, translated by Michael J. Dash as Caribbean Discourse (1989), is not just any book. It is the kind of book that attempts to do everything at once, to describe and to transform Martinican society and the Caribbean as a region.

Reading through Dash’s translation the question arises of whether the text is an adequate translation when more than half of its original 500 pages have been omitted from it?

Dash admits that he could have called the book Antillean Discourse, a title that might have honoured the specificities of the French Antilles in contrast to the Anglophone and Hispanic islands. He chose not to because he felt the need to emphasise its relevance for the entire region. Although Dash clearly distorts the Discourse by cutting it in half, his English translation still stubbornly survives, partly because of the aura of friendship between Dash and Glissant that lends his project some authority.

Considering some of Dash’s key translation decisions could be enough to call for a second attempt at translating this key anti-colonial text into English. Among the most apparent examples are Dash’s translation of the concept of “detour” as “diversion”, depriving it of the sense of movement the concept originally implies, or his substitution of “cross-cultural contact” for “Relation”, evoking the mechanical logic of intercultural exchange instead of the quintessentially open-ended and chaotic process suggested by the original term.

However, there seems to be even more at stake. Reading through the French pages that were left out by Dash, Paul Gilroy notes in The Black Atlantic (1993) that Glissant’s references to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari are not mentioned in Caribbean Discourse. To Gilroy the reasons behind this move are clear. Acknowledging the exchange between Glissant and the famous French postmodernists would “somehow violate the aura of Caribbean authenticity that is a desirable frame around the work”. For Gilroy, Dash’s translation is a typical case of the “refusal to accept the ‘complicity and syncretic interdependency’ of black and white thinkers.”

For Gilroy this represents a wasted opportunity to rescue Glissant from the confines of radical otherness and to emphasise the rhizomatic relations driving his work. Perhaps even more so because, in the context of creolisation, the translator, in Glissant’s terms, occupies the central position of the “great relator”, the one who creates a passage between the translator’s own language (langage)—as something different from the tongue (language) he is writing in—and the language (langage) that the poet has developed for himself.

4

“It is difficult for an Antillean to be the brother, the friend or quite simply the associate or ‘compatriot’ of Fanon,” Glissant writes at the beginning of Le discours antillais. “An Avenue in Fort-de-France is named after him. That’s it.”

The reasons for the lack of love for the prophet in his home town are easily detected. After all, it was Fanon who brought about the complete break with France when he decided to fight in the Algerian struggle for independence. In the process he became Algerian and African. He never returned to his native island. But what if he had lived a longer life? Glissant is convinced that he would have returned to confront the Martinican colonial problem with the same ferocity.

Fanon’s detour via France and Algeria is, however, not a flight from reality in Glissant’s eyes. It allows the homme d’action, the man of action, to see the principle of domination that is not directly tangible at home with greater clarity elsewhere.

For Glissant there is no detour without retour (return). It takes the form of a physical return to fight for Martinican independence and against the silent death of its culture. It is also a theoretical return, “a return to the point of entanglement, from which we were forcefully turned away; that is where we must ultimately put to work the forces of creolization, or perish.”

Three years apart as students at the Lycée Shoelcher in Fort-de-France, Glissant and Fanon also met several times in Paris and in Rome, four months before Fanon’s death. And while Glissant admires Fanon for his determination and the poetic conclusion of Peau noire, masques blancs (1952), the differences in their characters are striking.

After one of their meetings, Glissant described Fanon as “a tortured soul”, tortured by an oversensitivity that Glissant considered himself immune to. When Glissant writes in Soleil de la conscience (1955), an account of his first eight years in Paris, “Il faut parler de racisme” (we have to speak of racism), it sounds more like a cumbersome necessity rather than a Fanonian call for arms. Moreover, in the lines that follow he writes more about the racist complexes of the Antillean petit bourgeoisie than about the racism he is subjected to in the metropole. The contrast to Fanon’s chapter L’expérience vécue du noir, translated as The Fact of Blackness and written around the same time, could not be greater.

Is Glissant’s gaze perhaps already too transfixed on the idea of harmony in diversity or on the world-totality he sees arising on the horizon? Is his Relation too relativist to bother about anti-racist struggles? Is Glissant a brother of Fanon or the opposite? A minor academic war is waging on these questions.

Perhaps the comparison does not do either of them justice.

Glissant will outlive Fanon by half a century; his time will produce different questions. In a world where the enemy is no longer the coloniser but the invisible forces of multinational corporations, staying true to a friendship with Fanon means for Glissant to free our vision of the globe from the Western projects of globalisation and closed-in nationalisms.

By positing the Tout-Monde, the world as a whole, as his central point of reference, Glissant allows the Fanonian movement to live forth within him.

He is busy building the same “world of the You”.

5

 In 1939, in the same year he publishes his Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (1947), Aimé Césaire returns to Martinique and becomes a teacher at the Lycée Shoelcher together with his wife Suzanne. Fanon is one of his students. Glissant, who at the time is too young to be taught by Césaire, hears of his ideas through his older friends.

In 1945, Césaire becomes the mayor of Fortde-France and the deputy of the French National Assembly, a double role he will occupy alongside his work as a poet for more than 50 years. In 1946, he gives his signature to the law that transforms the colonies of Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Martinique and la Reunion into French departments and makes their will to dependence official.

Later on he legitimises his decision by putting the principles of democracy before Négritude: “My people are crying, they need peace, food, clothing. Will I go and philosophise about it? No.” After the total collapse of the sugar industry, Martinicans could not care less whether or not the Senegalese could relate to the poetry of their deputy or not.

In Césaire’s version of these events, there was a subversive element to the claim of a small island off the coast of Latin America to the rights associated with French citizenship. It turned out to solve the material problems of the island rather quickly. But the problem of identity and culture stubbornly remained. And the teaching of Creole in Martinican schools—a recommendation of the early Glissant—as a tool to fight against cultural alienation, would not have been the quick solution to this problem according to Césaire.

After the introduction of Creole into the syllabus, an upset mother tells Césaire in Creole, “I’m not sending my child to school to learn Creole, but French. I am already teaching him creole, at home.” The poet-politician is taken by surprise. The common-sense of the lady strikes him as a truth he cannot dispute.

Glissant is not that easily convinced. Glissant’s work can in part be read as a critique of the disjuncture between the radical anti-colonial stance that Césaire advocates in the Le discours sur le colonialism (1950) and Césaire’s endorsement of departmentalisation in his work as a politician.

Still, although there is certainly an element of opposition between Glissant and Césaire, there is also an on-going acknowledgement on Glissant’s part of the importance of the architect of Négritude. In L’Intention poétique (1969) Glissant writes that Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal is the moment of a “flamboyant conscience” that opens the door for the possibility of Fanon’s total practice. Glissant is fond of retelling the anecdote of a liberation army commander telling him, “Wherever black people are suffering, Négritude is completely necessary. But whenever they pick up a rifle, they no longer need it.”

Although Glissant at no point elaborates further on his position towards his two theoretical predecessors, with this anecdote he places himself not between but after Césaire’s poetics and Fanon’s action. We need something else, and Glissant has a different imaginary of the world to offer, one that is creolising itself, and where what is needed most is “the intuition of everything that’s the same and everything that’s different. Above all, everything that’s different. What’s different in the world constitutes our strength.”

6

After Glissant arrives in France in 1948, his socialisation in Parisian society soon takes on bipolar forms. He senses an immediate solidarity with fellow students from the Antilles with whom he shares a common struggle against French colonialism. But there is also a sense of solitude he shares with fellow French writers and poets. Both camps do not see what Glissant sees in the other.

What seemed like schizophrenia to some is for him the search for a new vision of the world and a way of expressing it. From his arrival in Paris to his later years, the relation between poetics and politics is one that Glissant tries to reinvent with every book and with every failed cultural-political intervention.

In terms of struggle credentials, 1961 is the year where Glissant is as militant as he will ever be. With his friend Albert Beville (a.k.a. Paul Niger) he founds the Front des Antillais et Guyanais pour l’autonomie (FAGA). The Front does not last very long. The Algerian war is waging at the same time and de Gaulle will not tolerate another decolonial movement. FAGA is dissolved three months after it is created. Glissant and Beville are arrested and not allowed to return to the Antilles.

After his eventual return in 1965, Glissant recognises that neither the fight for political independence nor economic strikes are feasible options of resistance in a country without an economy. Glissant focuses on cultural-political action instead. He sets up the Institut Martiniquais d’études (IME) as a space for critical studies by Martinicans about Martinique. But just as a country that does not want to be autonomous cannot be forced into independence, its people are not easily convinced of the critical stance of the IME. The institute’s journal, Acoma, named after the now-extinct and once-tallest tree of the island, only survives from 1971 to 1973. For Glissant the failed attempt to create a space for his intellectual project in his own locality is enough of a rejection. He leaves to fight global struggles instead.

After what appears to be a long retreat from direct political initiatives Glissant—already approaching old age—launches an ecological project to make Martinique a “pays biologique du monde” by the turn of the millennium, a biological country of the world. His work is, after all, trying to establish the Relation between everything that is alive, nature included. The general reaction in Martinique, which Glissant mentions at the end of La cohée du Lamentin (2005) is one of “fear, indifference and mockery”. Glissant is evidently hurt when he responds, “Countries that slowly waste away can allow themselves these kinds of responses.”

The final blow to Glissant’s Realpolitik-poetics comes in 2007. Jacques Chirac has assigned Glissant with the task of setting up a Centre national pour la memoire des esclavages et de leurs abolutions. It is planned as the first of its kind on the soil of a former colonial power. Glissant is enthused about the project. This is a historic occasion to change the imagination of the Grande Nation. If he cannot activate the memory of slavery at home perhaps he can establish the relation to this shared history from the other side of the Atlantic. But the discussions on the setting up of the Centre get stuck. Between changing political administrations, Glissant’s plan is not realised.

What remains of Glissant’s politics after these failures? There is still the belief in utopia. The poet can always fall back on the idea that he is writing for a readership, for a nation, that is yet to come.

7

“Martinique is not a Polynesian island.” This is how Le discours antillais begins. Geographically speaking, Martinique is an island in the Caribbean Sea, 70 kilometres long and 30 kilometres wide. But Martinique is still very much a part of France, despite a distance of 6,300 kilometres separating the two regions.

On the political map of the French Republic the island hangs on a thin spider thread connecting the Régions d’outre-mer with the French mainland. The subtitle of the map “(at the same geographic scale)” manages to imply both a level of equality and reaffirms the grandeur of France at the same time. Some islands are too small to be shown—the map honours their invisibility with a short note at the bottom of the page. The white background behind the squares in which the French overseas regions are framed covers everything else. The world has strangely disappeared.

This is why it is not enough to declare Martinique’s geography to the world. It is not that easy to become Caribbean. Underneath the great white blanket the world first needs to be rediscovered, as do the similarities and differences linking the islands to the archipelago and to the neighbouring continents.

Where to start with this colossal work? Glissant begins by describing the landscape of his island.

The north is mountainous and green. The Mount Pelée volcano is its centre. When it erupted in 1902 it destroyed the town of Saint-Pierre, killing 30,000 people within minutes. It stands as a reminder that the tectonic plates on which the island sits just have to shift a little for it all to disappear. The abyss could open up at any moment.

The mountains and forests of the north provided refuge for the maroons, the runaway slaves who fled the plantations to re-establish cultural links with Africa and create a new community of free men. They represent true heroism, the most honourable tradition of the island—and a forgotten one.

To the south, past the deserted factories of the sugar plantations, lies the urban centre Fort-de-France, with all its order and modernity, and with its tourist-flooded beaches. While the green north is the domain of legends, of resistance and freedom, the south stands for the grey realities of exploitation and colonial politics.

The river Lézarde flows from the north to the south, linking the memory of the maroons with the open sea. In Glissant’s first novel, La Lézarde (1958), named after the river, a group of friends descend from the green mountains to plan the assassination of the metaphorical coloniser who has built his house over the source of the Lézarde. In an act of holy violence the sea will eventually swallow him; there is hope in liberation.

By the time the actual river dries up in the course of Glissant’s life, it has become a symbol for the death of the national project. But the journey from the mountains to the cities and the sea, from the idyllic secluded life in harmony with nature to the political struggle in solidarity with the liberation movements elsewhere, has already been made. There is no turning back.

Towards the end of his Poétique de la Relation (1990), Glissant is at the beach. Beyond the exclamations of tourists about how beautiful the island is, in his eyes the beach and the sea are in flames. The sea into which millions of African slaves were thrown. For Glissant no image is more haunting.

North and south, the mountain and the sea, the forest and the beach. Those are the coordinates in which Glissant thinks from this small place and about the world. In the absence of monuments erected for the slaves who died on the Middle Passage and on the plantation, or for the maroon who kept their memories alive, Glissant writes within an unassuming bracket, “(Our landscape is its own monument: its meaning can only be traced on the underside. It is all history)”.

8

Through his friend Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow, the newly re-elected director of UNESCO and the “first African to lead a major international organisation”, Glissant is invited to edit the organisation’s Le Courrier, a monthly publication appearing in 36 languages. Under M’Bow, who is soon considered “one of the most controversial, tough-minded leaders of any international organisation”, the US and Great Britain withdraw from the organisation. They complain that the Senegalese director privileges Third World nations. It is only a matter of time before they refuse to tolerate M’Bows determination to problematise global power structures.

But for now Glissant gets to work on the Courrier as he pleases. Some of the issues he edits read as though he and his friends are home alone in the big Y-shaped building with the many flags in the garden. An editorial from a 1982 issue announces, for example, that the “UNESCO headquarters will become for a day an international forum from which a score of poets from every corner of the globe will speak out through their poems against the never resting forces of oppression and destruction, a platform from which the mingled voices of peace, poetry and liberty can declare ‘War on War’.”

Glissant’s friend and fellow poet Jean-Jacques Lebel goes on to write what Glissant would not have put any differently: “[W]e have accepted the challenge implicit in the incursion of poetry into an official institution. If poetry is still there it is because the other forms of expression (scientific, political, religious, and administrative) and the other systems of belief, perception and expression, have proved incapable of comprehending the present world crisis.”

The UNESCO years allow Glissant to experiment with his ideas in a magazine that claims to represent 158 nations. In the process he starts speaking less about creolisation and more about Relation. He is busy imagining the world as a whole. About the Western officials’ attitude in the corridors of the Parisian office building, he remarks in an endnote to the Poétique de la Relation, “If they would have considered culture as a totality they would have lost their jobs and the exclusive right to manage the order of the world.”

When Poétique de la Relation is published in 1990, Glissant’s reputation begins to peak. The bibliography about his work is already more than 750 pages thick. To the French he is marketed as the most important writer from the Caribbean. For a new generation of writers who form the Créolité movement, he is “the father of a future literature”.

For his critics, Glissant’s entrance into the literary mainstream and the inevitable absorption of his work into the postcolonial canon goes hand in hand with his depoliticisation, the definite end of the Martinican national project—a transformation that comes to a climax in 1997, when his work is bought by Gallimard, the publishing house that represents what Pierre Bourdieu once disparagingly referred to as the “bastion of pure literature”.

In anticipation of being accused of relativism, Glissant begins the last chapter of Poétique de Relation with a confession,

“Recognizing, imagining, Relation.

Yet another undertaking, thoroughly disguised, of universalizing generalization?

Escape, the problems at our heels?

No imagination helps avert destitution in reality, none can oppose oppressions or sustain those who ‘withstand’ in body or spirit. But imagination changes mentalities, however slowly it may go about this.”

9

In 1989 Glissant stands in front of an audience of African-American students. He is trying to convince them that William Faulkner was the greatest poet of the twentieth century. The students look at him in shock and disbelief.

To them, Faulkner is a dead white racist who wrote plantation stories not worth reading. For Glissant, Faulkner’s imaginary Yoknapatawpha County is everything poetry can aspire to do. It not only reveals the secret curse of the Deep South and the relations between Louisiana and the Caribbean; it also sings the song of the global drama of creolisation.

He does not give up easily and tells his students and colleagues at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, that Faulkner was closer to them than many of their “authentic” black writers. In Faulkner, Mississippi (1996) he writes, “What a bias it is—inherited from the practice of the oppressors—to suppose that a work of art cannot arise from the house of the master just as easily as from the shack of the oppressed.” Not the biography of the man but the relation of his literature to the world is what excites Glissant in Faulkner.

It does not take much to see where the rejection of Glissant’s students is coming from. Faulkner’s patronising and racist declarations about how blacks in the South should get an education and “refrain from upsetting society”, how they should practice “decency, dignity and correct deportment, and moral and social responsibility”, are enough to exclude him from any postcolonial literature course, and Glissant with him. The Martinican poet admits, “This whole history is complicated.” But he insists: Faulkner is the greatest poet of the twentieth century.

At first sight Faulkner really does not have much to say about black life on the plantation. The illegitimacy haunting the Deep South does not concern black southerners in the same way that it does the white families that sit on stolen land and live off slave labour. Faulkner’s main statement about the black population of Yoknapatawpha is that “they endured”. In Glissant’s reading, this means that they “count”, that they are the “unsurpassable point of reference” of Faulkner’s work.

The central trait of Faulkner’s black characters is that they can never be heard speaking interior monologues. They are but opaque shadows in the background. To Glissant this is where Faulkner’s genius lies. The genius of the one “who admits in effect that he will never understand either Blacks or Indians and that it would be hateful to pose as the omnipresent narrator or to try to penetrate these minds.”

And not despite but precisely because of his refrainment from knowing the other, Faulkner becomes a privileged witness to the way in which the conflict of the cultures of the world shapes his own place, the plantation. Creolisation in Mississippi is not a happy intercultural mixture, but the “unstoppable conjunction despite misery, oppression and lynching, the conjunction that opens up torrents of unpredictable results.”

Faulkner helps Glissant in explaining his concept of opacity. In response to the violence inherent in the notion of transparency and to thousands of years of Western philosophy, Glissant writes in Poétique de la Relation, “As for my identity, I’ll take care of that myself.”

But opacity does not confine the individual into singularities. It opens the door to a new solidarity on the grounds of a non-violent approach to knowledge. In a conversation with Manthia Diawara that forms part of the documentary Un monde en relation (2009), Glissant says, “As far as I’m concerned, a person has the right to be opaque. That doesn’t stop me from liking that person, it doesn’t stop me from working with him. A racist is someone who refuses what he doesn’t understand. I can accept what I don’t understand.”


Moses März is a PhD student at the African Studies Unit at UCT. Before moving to Cape Town in 2010, he studied for an MA in Political Science at Freie Universität Berlin. He is currently a contributing editor at the pan-African literary magazine Chimurenga and part of the POSTAMBLE editorial collective. To earn a living he works at a German language agency in Cape Town.